|On Wednesday, I received a telephone call from an Information Technology recruitment consultancy. They wanted to know if I would be prepared to provide computer systems programming services for NATO.
Detecting that I was speaking with a native French-speaker, I slipped into my rather unpracticed second language to explain that I could not countenance working with the militaries, because I disagree with their strategy of repeated aggression.
|I explained I was critical of the possibility that the air strikes in Libya were being conducted in order to establish an occupation of North Africa by Western forces, to protect oil and gas interests in the region. The recruitment agent agreed with me that the Americans were the driving force behind NATO, and that they were being too warlike.
Whoops, there goes another great opportunity to make a huge pile of cash, contracting for warmongers ! Sometimes you just have to kiss a career goodbye. IT consultancy has many ethical pitfalls. Time to reinvent myself.
I’ve been “back to school” for the second university degree, and now I’m supposed to submit myself to the “third degree” – go out and get me a job. The paucity of available positions due to the poor economic climate notwithstanding, the possibility of ending up in an unsuitable role fills me with dread. One of these days I might try to write about my experiences of having to endure several kinds of abuse whilst engaged in paid employment : suffice it to say, workplace inhumanity can be unbearable, some people don’t know what ethical behaviour means, and Human Resources departments always take sides, especially with vindictive, manipulative, micro-managers. I know what it’s like to be powerless.
|Once again, the BBC has allowed to pass unchallenged the impression that green power policy and renewable energy investment are behind the dramatic rise in British domestic energy prices.
Disappointingly, this has come from John Craven, whose accuracy is renowned.
However, on this occasion, he has allowed a blooper meme to consolidate in the public mind.
Here’s how Countryfile went yesterday evening :-
[ Countryfile, BBC One, 16 October 2011, 18:25. Part way through recording, starting at approximately 20 minutes 32 seconds. ]
[ Ellie Harrison ] Earlier in the programme we were looking at the expected huge rise in wind power across the UK. But in the race to create more of our energy this way, who will win and who is set to lose out ? Here’s John again.
[ John Craven ] Earlier, I discovered how the plan to put wind power at the heart of our future energy supply is creating a building boom in wind farms, both on land and out at sea. With billions being poured into wind power, and with it being at the centre of the Government’s strategy on renewables, the future seems certain. So who will the losers and winners be in this wind revolution ? The most obvious winner is the environment as less fossil fuels are burnt. But who else benefits ? Well, another clear winner is big business. Companies building the wind farms get a generous price for the electricity they produce. […]
Image Credit : Emily James
|Twitter alerted me to a fascinating piece of documentary produced by one Tony Roe, an “Inside Out Special” that aired on BBC One, Monday 10th October 2011 at 19:30, 7.30pm, but only in the East Midlands region. Called “Power Struggle” it contained released Police footage, and parts of the “Just Do It” film by Emily James.
Apologies to those of you outside the BBC iPlayer territory if you want to view it, because you won’t be allowed to, because you don’t pay a TV Licence in the UK, and the BBC haven’t realised that they could make a lot of juicy revenue by opening the iPlayer up to international pay-per-view. Silly them. But I digress.
|I was mildly irritated by the attempts of the narrator to keep “balance” during the early part of the piece, but I felt myself starting to get wound up when I hit the following section at roughly 26 minutes in :-
[Narrator] “Coal power stations are getting too old to carry on. The cost of renewing our power industry with something less environmentally damaging is enormous : 200 billion pounds. That’s the equivalent of building two Channel Tunnels every year for the next 9 years.”
[David Porter, Association of Electricity Producers] “There are very big question marks about whether the industry can actually raise this money. The companies don’t have that sort of money. It’s not there. So they’ve got to go to the financial markets to persuade people that the UK is the right sort of place to in which to make major investments in energy infrastructure. And I ought to say that having protest groups closing down power stations and so on doesn’t always send out the right signalling in that regard.”
[Narrator] “New ways of generating electricity are already happening because of an EU Directive, at a cost added to our fuel bills. Renewables like wind power now produce almost 10% of our electricity and the East Midlands is one of the biggest providers…”
When do micro-seismic events add up to earthquakes ? Landslips ? Tsunamis ? Who really knows ? These are just a few questions amongst many about underground mining techniques that will probably never be properly answered. Several mini-quakes were suggested to be responsible for the shutdown of Cuadrilla’s activities in Blackpool, north west England early in 2011, and there have been unconfirmed links between tremors and fracking in the United States of America, where unconventional gas is heavily mined.
It is perhaps too easy to sow doubt about the disbenefits of exploding rock formations by pressure injection to release valuable energy gases – many legislative and public consultation hurdles have been knocked down by the merest flick of the public relations wrist of the unconventional fossil gas industry (and its academic and consultancy friends).
The potential to damage the structure of the Earth’s crust may be the least attributable and least accountable of hydraulic fracturing’s suspected disadvantages, but it could be the most significant in the long run. Science being conducted into the impact on crust stability from fracking and other well injection techniques could rule out a wide range of geoengineering on safety grounds, such as Carbon Capture and Storage proposals. If we can’t safely pump carbon dioxide underground, we should really revise our projections on emissions reductions from carbon capture.
[ Camp Frack is under canvas in Lancashire protesting about the imposition of hydraulic fracturing on the United Kingdom. ]
I was speaking to a nuclear power “waverer” the other day. They said that George Monbiot or Mark Lynas was saying that since Germany has cancelled its nuclear power programme, Germany’s Carbon Dioxide emissions will increase, because they will be using coal and Natural Gas power stations :-
I explained that this was a common misconception, and that Germany is still planning to meet their carbon targets, and that it can be done even with coal and gas power plants because in a few decades’ time the coal and Natural Gas power plants will only be used a couple of weeks a year in total to back up all the renewables, such as wind power and solar power, that Germany is building.
This is not the end of the story, however.
Recently, pro-nuclear, anti-wind power climate change-sceptic and early publisher of Resurgence magazine, Hugh Sharman, announced to the Claverton Energy Research Group forum that he had been published in European Energy Review. “The clock is ticking”, reads the headline, “Energy policy has become a hotly debated topic in the UK. No country in Europe has more ambitious climate change goals. But the UK has taken few concrete steps yet. It is estimated that £200 billion is required until 2020 to start the UK on the its energy transformation. […] Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is expected to come out with a White Paper setting out the framework that should persuade utilities and investors to sign on to the government’s vision. Will it work? Energy consultant Hugh Sharman has grave doubts. With some like-minded specialists, he has started a website bringing together people who are alarmed at the UK’s energy situation. He […] sketches a sombre perspective…”
While everybody’s busy discussing ethics in the media, today’s been a great day to bury bad news – the shelving of the Energy Bill – and with it the Green Deal, the only hope Britain had left of economic recovery in the short-term.
And what of the Electricity Market Reform white paper and the National Policy Statements on energy ? Into the round wastepaper-bin-shaped recycling receptacle, possibly.
What next ? The revocation of the Climate Change Act and the dissolution of the Committee on Climate Change ?
I don’t know whether I should make overt political statements, but I think this news sugar ices the brioche, so I will : David Cameron’s “greenest government ever” has failed.
We need Van Jones, right here, right now.
It is a newer, clearer tone that George Monbiot uses in his piece “The nuclear industry stinks. But that is not a reason to ditch nuclear power“. He seems to have lost his dirty annoyance with filthy anti-nuclear activists and moved onto a higher plane of moral certitude, where the air is cleaner and more refined.
He is pro-technology, but anti-industry. For him, the privately owned enterprises of atomic energy are the central problem that has led to accidents both of a radioactive and an accountancy nature. “Corporate power ?”, he asks, “No thanks.” The trouble is, you can’t really separate the failings of nuclear power from the failings of human power. It’s such a large, complex and dangerous enterprise that inevitably, human power systems compromise the use of the technology, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. For a small amount of evidence, just look at the history of publicly-managed nuclear power in the United Kingdom. Not exactly peachy. And as for those who claimed that a “free” market approach to managing nuclear power would improve matters – how wrong they were. In my view, on the basis of the evidence so far, nobody can claim that nuclear power can be run as an efficient, safe, profit-making venture.
2nd November 2008
Browsing at a newsagent on a mainline railway station…
The question on the front cover of Fortune magazine, Europe edition Number 20, November 2008, already on the stands is “Who Pays for The Bailout ? You do, of course”. Of course, as this Credit Crunch means Bailout argument plays out, the issue of Energy and Climate Change is lost. But the question should be all about how to create a new green economy. Who pays for the re-powering ?
A sign of the greening times – another story teaser on the Fortune magazine advises “10 Green Stocks to Own Now”, and the front of the Independent on Sunday quotes Obama claiming that Energy is his “number one priority” in his bid for presidential election, with his “Apollo” project :-
“Obama’s green jobs revolution : Democrat will lead effort to curb world’s dependence on oil; Plans to create five million new posts in clean energy projects : By Geoffrey Lean in San Francisco and Leonard Doyle in Washington : Sunday, 2 November 2008 : Obama has pledged to create five million new ‘green collar jobs’ if elected : Barack Obama is promising a $150 billion “Apollo project” to bring jobs and energy security to the US through a new alternative energy economy, if his final push for votes brings victory in the presidential election on Tuesday. “That’s going to be my number one priority when I get into office,” Mr Obama has said of his “green recovery” plans. Making his arguments in a radio address yesterday, the Democratic favourite promised: “If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won’t just win this election. Together, we will change this country and change the world.”…”
“Gulf petrodollars help UK go green : Brown calls for Saudis to give more cash to IMF : Gaby Hinsliff, political editor : The Observer, Sunday 2 November 2008 : The fight against climate change will get an unexpected boost today from oil-rich Gulf states which will pledge to invest some of their petrodollar profits in British green energy projects. The surging oil price over the past year has left parts of the Middle East awash with cash as the rest of the world is squeezed by the credit crunch, making Arab royals some of the few active investors worldwide. The Gulf states have enjoyed a $1.4 trillion windfall from higher oil prices since 2003. Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday with Gordon Brown at the start of a tour of the region. He said some of that cash would now ‘help our firms reap the rewards from going low carbon and providing green energy to thousands of families’ under a so-called ‘green Gulf deal’ to be announced today…”
But that’s not the real reason why they are there. Ostensibly, the delegation’s serious business is about asking Saudi and other Arab oil states to contribute more towards the International Monetary Fund :-
“Gordon Brown in the Middle East : Brown hopeful of Saudi cash for IMF : Allegra Stratton in Riyadh, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 2 November 2008 15.30 GMT : Gordon Brown said today he was hopeful of success in his attempts to persuade dollar-rich Gulf states to prop up ailing national economies through a massive injection of capital into the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The prime minister spent three hours in one-to-one talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, trying to persuade the monarch to invest in a revamped IMF. On the first leg of a four-day visit to the Middle East, and aiming to secure hundreds of billions of dollars for the fund, Brown called off a planned dinner with business leaders accompanying him so as to allow maximum negotiating time with the Saudi king. The IMF currently has around $250 billion in its emergency reserves but there are fears that, with Hungary, Iceland and Ukraine having already sought assistance and more nations expected to follow, the sum might not be sufficient. Brown hopes to persuade Gulf leaders to use some of the estimated $1 trillion they have made from high oil prices in the last few years to boost the reserves, indicating that he would like to see the current sum increased by “hundreds of billions” of dollars. The prime minister said following the talks that he was hopeful of having secured Saudi backing…”
But hang on, what’s this ? :-
“…Brown, who is accompanied by a high-level trade delegation seeking Gulf investment, including the CEOs of BP and Shell…”
What on earth are BP (formerly British Petroleum) and (Royal Dutch) Shell doing in a delegation to the Arab states begging for the IMF charity fund and green energy investment ? Is it that BP and Shell won’t pay for green energy and it’s too hard to ask the British people to pay extra tax, so they’re coming to the Arab countries for a green energy bail-in ? What is going on here ? If OPEC countries are all in the “Axis of Evil”, and no foreign oil and gas companies can get a toehold, why are BP and Shell in the government delegation to Saudi ?
Paying for new energy systems can be expensive. The European Union Emisssions Trading Scheme is saying they want 100% of carbon emissions auctioned by 2013 to pay for larger projects – Carbon Capture and Storage and new Nuclear Power. However, the costly deadweight “white elephant in the room” is not nuclear power, but dead wells.
Are they all talking about Peak Oil in the OPEC Gulf, and proposing business opportunities to the King of the House of Saud to offset the Middle East’s future total loss of business as the wells empty – offering them compensation in the form of green investment deals ? Asking the Saudis to join the green energy race now and get ahead ?
BP and Shell have benefited from the recent rise in the price of oil, profiting even as the oil price has hit millions and created impoverishment. But they’re going to have to spend a very large amount on exploration for new oil and gas from now on. So why is there still resistance to spending more on renewables ? Can BP and Shell ever be convinced to go green ? Would a barrel load of toxic news work ? No. BP and Shell can’t pay for green energy because they have to maintain the profits of their shareholders. Pensions are going to be bad enough without forcing major “British” oil companies to pay for such things as bioethanol, algae biodiesel, solar panels and wind farms.
Action to tackle climate change must be a “tight shadow” on Peak Oil and its fall – tighter than the 9.1% depletion of the largest wells projected by the International Energy Agency (IEA) To reverse the oil decline, and more so to take action on climate change, investment is required. Banks are becoming owned by oil-rich nations, but this is simply a natural outcome of poor financial regulation that led to the Credit Crunch. However, it doesn’t mean that the future will be oil and gas necessarily. This new layer of ownership of financial bodies is not significant, as it will not seriously impact the greening of energy, if people are serious about it.
What is of value here is not banking but energy itself, which underpins the entire economy. The scenario is this : Saudi Arabia will not admit in public that it’s going down because of “Peak Oil”. They would prefer to keep up the revenue, but they’re not “engineering” a reduction of supply. It’s reducing anyway.
From their perspective, allowing supplies to weaken, by not doing any new investment into raising production, would be protecting their reserves to sell in future. A good strategy – even more so as prices rise against losses of supply but strong demand (even despite the blooming recession).
I figure that what BP and Shell are doing in the Middle East is making the case to the major oil-producing states to keep on pumping.
I guess that what Gordon Brown is doing is making the Saudis an offer they can’t refuse – either the major western states will implement measures to control oil prices which would make OPEC lose revenue, or the Saudis can underwrite the global bailout.
This mission is not about green energy investment. It’s about keeping the oil flowing.
To: Claverton Energy Research Group
From: Jo Abbess
Date: 24 June 2011
Subject: “Don’t believe the spin on thorium being a ‘greener’ nuclear option”
As you are, I’m sure, aware, context is everything.
I was so sure we’d escaped the clutches of the “Thorium Activist Trolls” a few years ago, but no, here they are in resurgence again, and this time they’ve sucked in George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale, all apparently gullible enough to believe the newly resurrected Generation IV hype campaign.
They should have first done their research on the old Gen IV hype campaign that withered alongside the “Hemp will Save the World, No Really” campaign and the “Biodiesel will Save the World, AND You Can Make it at Home” brigade. Oh, and the Zero Point Energy people.
I was, I admit, quite encouraged by both the Hemp and Biodiesel drives, until I realised they were a deliberate distraction from the Big Picture – how to cope with the necessity of creating an integrated system of truly sustainable energy for the future.
Hemp and Biodiesel became Internet virally transmitted memes around the same time as the Thorium concept, but where did they come from ?
Where does the Thorium meme originate from this time round ? I found some people took to it at The Register, where they spin against Climate Change science a lot – watch the clipped video :-
I would suggest that there are connections between the Thorium campaign and the anti-Climate Change science campaign, and I have some evidence, but I’m too busy to research more in-depth just now, so I’m not going to write it all up yet.
The key issues with all energy options is TIME TO DELIVERY and SCALEABILITY, and I think the option presented by the Thorium fuel cycle fails on both counts.
Yeah, sure, some rich people can devote their life savings to it, and some Departments of Defense (yes, Americans) and their corporate hangers-on can try selling ANOTHER dud technology to China (which is the basis of some Internet energy memes in my view).
Remember Carbon Capture and Storage ? The British Government were very keen on making a Big Thing about CCS – in order to sell it to the miscreant Chinese because (WARNING : CHINA MYTH) China builds 2 !! coal-fired !! power stations a week/day/month !!
THORIUM – A Brief Analysis
TIME TO DELIVERY – 20 to 50 years
SCALEABILITY – unknown
USEFULNESS ASSESSMENT – virtually zero, although it could keep some people on the gravy train, and suck in some Chinese dough
Don’t believe the hype,
PS What other evidence do we have that the Thorium meme is most likely just a propaganda campaign ? Nick Griffin of the British National Party backs it, and the BNP are widely alleged to promote divisiveness…
Thank you, Coal.
Thank you for the asthma, the mercury, the mountain top removal, the birth defects, the mine fatalities, the grossly inefficient electricity networks, the lack of investment in electricity networks, the smog, the heat, and above all, thank you for giving us Glenn Beck, on a platter – this is so much fun to watch !
[ UPDATE : SKEPTICALSCIENCE HAVE DEBUNKED STEVE McINTYRE. ]
Steve McIntyre, probably the only person on the planet who might grumble about the cost of Barack Obama’s suit rather than his all-American wars, has suddenly become an expert energy engineer, it seems.
This month, he’s taking aim at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, regarding their special report on Renewable Energy, questioning the contributions of an engineer, Sven Teske, and basing his objections on the fact that Teske works for Greenpeace :-
Flinging any kind of pseudo-mud he can construe at the IPCC is not Steve’s newest of tricks, but it still seems to be effective, going by the dance of the close cohort of the very few remaining loyal climate change “sceptics” who get published in widely-read media :-
He even pulled the turtleneck over Andrew Revkin’s eyes for a while :-
And Mark Lynas has been joining in, in his own nit-picky way :-
The few comebacks have been bordering on the satirical, or briefly factual, with the exception of Carbon Brief’s very measured analysis of the IPCC’s communication expertise :-
Leo Hickman’s being bravely evenhanded :-
It’s not a total surprise that New Scientist and The Economist wade in deep :-
Sven Teske’s explanation has not been accepted by Mark Lynas, although it seems really OK to me :-
The Daily Mail digs out the usual emotive terms :-
Steve McIntyre is playing out the “Princess and the Pea” narrative, complaining about a few wrunkles in a process of international collaboration, and distracting us from looking at the actual report, which I would encourage you most warmly to do :-
It is full of the most incredible case studies and intriguing engineering discoveries. It makes cautious, conservative calculations, and looks at conditions and caveats in a very transparent manner. For a work that relied on the contributions of over 120 people and managed to compose a document so helpful and illuminating, I’d say it’s a work of profound achievement, and should be read in every school and university. Four scenarios from a collection of 164 are studied in depth to compare their strengths and weaknesses – and the conclusion of the SRREN team is that :-
“Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies…”
Somehow, though, Steve McIntyre believes otherwise. I suppose it’s not completely fair to berate him, because he might be suffering from a delusion, given that he seems to believe his opinion trumps that of over a hundred of the world’s authorities on what is possible in Renewable Energy technologies; and I’m the last person who would criticise somebody for having a mental illness.
I’m wondering, however, since he often sticks his nose up at IPCC matters, and since the world is suffering from stress in the supply of fossil fuels, whether he has a “Plan Beak” for the world’s energy crisis ?
Come on Steve McIntyre, tell us what your plan is to provide energy for humanity. Don’t tell me you believe that Nuclear Power is the way forward. I just won’t believe you, and a large number of the citizens of the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and help us all, even Switzerland, would share my doubts.
As everybody can clearly see from the Columbia University graph at the top of this post, the IPCC are right about emissions, and the global warming data shows they’re right about that too. Why should they be wrong about Renewable Energy ?
I mean, I detect there are a few issues with the way the IPCC organises itself, and the style of its reports, but hey, where’s the viable alternative ? I don’t see one, anywhere. And don’t go pointing me to groups with pretensions.
We may just have to get used to complex international bodies, formed of complex, intelligent people, and learn how to read their complex, intricate reports with care and attention. And not get distracted by grumpy semi-retired mining consultants.
Mark Lynas’ increasingly entangled, highly chained argument about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is beginning to look like it could be one big prank to me. Either that or he’s hiding inside a very large turtleneck and hasn’t had much air lately.
“Some green-tinged commentators, in trying to protect the IPCC from any criticism – legitimate or illegitimate – are now seeking to deflect attention by putting blame elsewhere. Carbon Brief, a sort of PR rapid-response service which takes on climate sceptics (and which has former Greenpeace campaigner Christian Hunt as its main press contact), admitted that there were “legitimate issues with the organisation’s communications” – but tried to pin the blame on the media…”
So…let’s get this straight – according to Mark Lynas – Christian Hunt, who used to work with the Public Interest Research Centre, and helped edit the first Centre for Alternative Technology report “Zero Carbon Britain“, which PIRC published, is now a mere ideologue ? You mean he is incapable of reporting accurately on the work of thousands of British and international renewable energy engineers because he used to work for Greenpeace ?
Sorry. That argument doesn’t hold. Why does Christian Hunt now have to be in the “bad boy” box ?
Previously, Mark Lynas was confident of a renewable energy future for Britain, but was “agnostic” about Nuclear Power :-
““Localism will become the buzzword,” says Mark Lynas, the environmentalist and author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. “It is technically possible to achieve a zero-carbon Britain by 2050 as we are blessed with abundant renewable resources, especially off-shore wind in the shallow North Sea – although it will be a harder task without nuclear, on which I am agnostic. This largely covers electricity generation, but weaning ourselves off fossil fuels for our transport needs is much harder to achieve.”
Now, it appears, he’s in love with the dreamlike future of Nuclear Power :-
“Lynas belives we can now claw our way back below the 350ppm CO2 boundary – and that we can do it without cutting consumption or radically changing our habits. Nuclear-charged electric cars, biofuelled jets and continuing economic growth mean it will be business as usual in the low carbon future he envisages.”
What changed ? Fukushima Daiichi happened, or rather, started happening and got progressively worse, halfway through writing his new book, but that didn’t put him off the atomic power trail. He’s on a very lonely island. Perhaps he’s there with David MacKay, the author of the book “Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air” which I think has some pretty unrealistic visioning about harvesting uranium from seawater. Have they both drunk the Kool Aid ? I can see no other reason for their unsuppressed belief in the March of Nuclear Progress, unless they’ve spent too long talking to Matt Ridley, who could probably even be optimistic about Fukushima Daiichi…Oh…wait… He has been ! But I digress.
Mark Lynas believes in the power of Renewable Energy, even though he’s been snared in the cult of Atomkraft :-
“Personally I think that 80% of the world’s energy probably could be met by renewables by mid-century – but the IPCC’s renewables report singularly fails to demonstrate that. (So I’m not a clean energy ‘unbeliever’ – denier? – even by [Greenpeace’s Sven] Teske’s standard above.) Instead, the figure comes from one of 167 [no, 164, actually] different energy scenarios, none of which are assessed in terms of their likelihood or feasibility. They are just ‘scenarios’, not plans, strategies or even projections.”
An international group of experts have put together a collection of 164 potential pathways, but how can Mark Lynas possibly know which is the most likely ? Which is the best ? Which the most optimal ? Who better than the people on the IPCC to assess the best options ?
A lot of our energy future rests on choice – the choices that governments, companies and people make – about the best energy technologies to invest in, about the regulations for environmental protection, and about how best to match and marry energy resources.
Without care and composure and strategic policy, these choices will probably be made on a step-by-step basis, with limited systems thinking. This has been the way throughout the development of the use of fossil fuels and uranium, and we have ended up with heinously wasteful power generation networks, and rapacious resource scavenging around the world.
It’s right that we give priority not to particular, favourite technologies, but to packages of options that fit well together and have synergistic effects on resource optimisation, environmental protection and climate safety.
Many groups are working on this very problem, and not just the non-governmental organisations. We now have government departments, engineering companies and energy systems analysts around the world looking at economy-wide responses to climate change, and how to effect the changes in the energy systems that can meet the challenge.
There are many experts out there. Many of them resist new Nuclear Power as costly, dangerous and defunct, and propose strategies similar to the Greenpeace [r]Evolution, which, as Sven Teske explains, was written by an alliance that spanned industry as well as Civil Society.
What gives Mark Lynas (and his New Best Friend, Steve McIntyre), the authority to say that Sven Teske’s judgement on the best way forward is wrong ? And why shouldn’t the IPCC prefer a scenario similar to the one proposed by Greenpeace ?
Nuclear Power is not a very pragmatic choice. It’s lumpy, costly, unreliable, risky and lots of the expenses are stacked up towards the end of a reactor’s life. It’s part of the dying paradigm of centrally-provided electricity generation. It’s proved it’s uselessness. Let’s move on from Nuclear Power.
When people talk about “energy efficiency”, they usually mean “end use energy efficiency” – how many miles to the gallon or watts to the lumen. They also sometimes mean “end use energy thrift”, meaning they pay more attention to their energy use, and keep it pared down.
However, the largest source of energy inefficiency is systemic, for example, the losses in the electricity generation sector. Let’s just dip into the figures to check. The sources of energy data about the United Kingdom that I make use of most frequently are the Energy Trends quarterly report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and the annual DECC Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics (DUKES).
From the 2010 DUKES report, the “Electricity flow chart 2009 (TWh)” in Chapter 5 shows that Coal used in power stations was 288.6 Terawatt hours (TWh) for 2009, and Natural Gas fed into the electricity generation system was 356.2 TWh. The “Conversion, Transmission & Distribution Losses” amounted to 565.9 TWh.
From Chapter 2 of the 2010 DUKES report, the “Coal flow chart 2009 (millions of tonnes of coal)” showed that 40.1 million tonnes of coal were fed into the power stations in 2009, so that equates to the 288.6 TWh from Chapter 5. This chart also shows that imports of coal amounted to 38.2 million tonnes, by deduction therefore, equivalent to 274.9 TWh.
In Chapter 4, the “Natural gas flow chart 2009 (TWh)” shows that 355.7 TWh of Natural Gas went to the power stations, and that imports of Natural Gas were 455.8 TWh.
A simple calculation shows that the combined total of the imported Coal and Natural Gas in 2009 was 730.7 TWh, and the losses from the entire electricity generation system was 565.9 TWh, which was 77% of the imported amount.
So, let’s put that another way – over three quarters of the energy that we imported in the form of Coal and Natural Gas to keep our electricity generation system running was wasted. That’s right – wasted. That means that the efficiency of using imported Coal and Natural Gas to make electricity is only 23%.
Now, compare this to the efficiency of energy conversion in wind turbines, I beg you, and decide for yourself which offers the better deal. The free range wind, of course, is and will remain, free of charge.
With a coal- and Natural Gas-fired power generation system this inefficient, the UK is highly dependent on imports of primary energy. Yet asking domestic and corporate consumers to change their behaviour by conserving energy is not going to solve this root problem. I am of the view that asking people to change their energy habits just deflects attention away from the changes that are necessary in the basic power production system.
One of the reasons this state of affairs is accepted is because of the historical development of electricity generation – a long chain of decisions has led to a situation where the consistency of the supply and its quantity are more important than making its production more efficient. Inefficiency is accepted in order to guarantee delivery of a high quality, versatile energy – but it could be so much better.
TO BE CONTINUED…
On one thing, Mark Lynas is right – the world cannot cope with more large hydropower dam projects – just look at what Rainfall Change has meant for power blackouts in South America.
However, yet again, he blurs the value of one of the central principles guiding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – inclusivity :-
Who are the experts on climate change and energy ? We need to make sense of the various voices, and for that, we need to hear them all. The IPCC is the best platform we have – it is as neutral as it is possible for a host organisation to be.
Mark Lynas has just joined the Delayers-and-Deniers club, whose agenda has moved on from trying to take down Climate Change science to taking down any organisation that could help the policy and industry situation improve.
His contributions, including this comment at JudithCurry.com, betray his unwitting complicity in a destructive agenda :-
Mark, they’re Americans. Americans believe in Free Speech. Americans are legally permitted to say anything they like, even if it has no factual basis. I know, there are lots of Canadians, Britannians and Australians in the Delayers-and-Deniers club, too, but the central point stands – all this grunting and dismissiveness about the IPCC is their way of distracting the public mind from the real problems we must face in changing the energy systems while we still have time – before it becomes a genuine crisis situation, where we can no longer act.
Who is completely independent, neutral or unbiased about Climate Change ? Who is completely independent, neutral or unbiased about Energy ?
Solving Climate Change requires solving Energy, and that requires solving the problems in democratic dialogue. The so-called Climate Change “skeptics” do not engage in forthright, honest, transparent dialogue, not even about energy. Back away from the grumblers, Mark !
I have my criticisms of the “corporate steal” of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention – issues of economic development and industrial investment have dominated the international conferences, and unworkable economics theories have snuck into the Kyoto Protocol and any other initiative you think of – including the emergence of proposals for Carbon Taxation and Carbon Trading schemes.
I also have criticisms of the communications structure within and around the IPCC – I think the IPCC reports should be written in such a way as to make sure that everybody can take in the full seriousness, urgency and momentum of what they are discussing.
Why are executives of major energy companies bothering to take part in the IPCC process ? Because they perceive that things cannot go on like they are. This is the same perception as held by those in Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations and charities.
Nominate for me a set of people who are entirely independent, who cannot have a biased opinion about the future of energy and the environment, and I will place my trust in their review of the literature on Climate Change and Renewable Energy.
Failing that, I stick with the collage produced by the multi-viewed expert panel, corporate and non-corporate, part of the IPCC. There is nothing better than a totally open forum. Maybe International Rivers want to take part in future IPCC work ? If important views are being ignored, they need to be included from now on.
Allowing the Delayers-and-Deniers to keep setting the agenda is dangerous and disabling. We’ve already seen the success they had in derailing public acceptance of Climate Change science. Their latest plans include telling us that wind power and solar power don’t work. It would be laughable, except that the mainstream media keep repeating the lies :-
Mark, your allegiance to the failing nuclear industry demonstrates that you have not understood that its promotion is one of the tactics of the Delayers-and-Deniers club to keep us from effective, long-term energy change.
By attacking anything that has the possibility of succeeding, they have a stranglehold on progress. Don’t give in to their agenda. We shouldn’t be fighting each other.
When people like Mark Lynas accuse Greenpeace and other green campaign organisations of failings, there is any underlying theme – accusations of manipulation – both of facts and people. The sub-text harks back to the combat against fascism and Nazism in Europe.
We’re never going to make any progress on climate change if those advocating for energy change are equated to early 20th Century dictators and totalitarians.
Energy is a Social Good
I recently wrote an essay called “Energy for Democracy” making a first attempt at connecting the dots on grassroots democratic mobilisation and energy change. The subject set was in the field of “Environmental Communication”, and so I went back and looked at the development of mass media, advertising and public persuasion. I then went on to think about how propaganda and governance are interrelated. And I also looked at philosophy, and politics. I looked at the early 20th Century ideological splits in Europe, and the part that industrial development played. I looked at how democratic and other forms of socialism dealt with the problem of energy.
I posited that, since energy is produced for the Common Good, it should be subject to democratic management. I found myself “channelling” the spirit of Ramsay Macdonald, and going back to the questions of society and the integration of new industries that were pervasive before the two so-called “World Wars”.
Energy Of A Similar Wavelength
And today I find this very theme picked up by Ulrich Beck in The Guardian newspaper, along with the expression “energy change”, which is a term I am using increasingly to encapsulate the pivotal and essential response to climate change :-
“Germany is right to opt out of nuclear”, he headlines, “The rejection of nuclear power is a result not of German angst but of economic thinking. We must invest in renewable energy”.
I was gladdened when he stepped from economics to democratics :-
“…Ultimately, the rejection of nuclear is not a result of German angst but of economic thinking. In the long run, nuclear power will become more expensive, while renewable energy will become cheaper. But the key point is that those who continue to leave all options open will not invest…People everywhere are proclaiming and mourning the death of politics. Paradoxically, the cultural perception of the danger may well usher in the very opposite: the end of the end of politics…what is denounced by many as a hysterical over-reaction to the “risks” of nuclear energy is in fact a vital step towards ensuring that a turning point in energy generation becomes a step towards greater democracy…The novel coalition between the state and social movements of the kind we currently see at work in Germany now has a historic opportunity. Even in terms of power politics, this change of policy makes sense…”
The British are stumbling towards democracy, too, but they keep tripping over old divisiveness, and create new divisions too, just to complicate matters.
People Power – Not Potty Nor Puny
The Climate Camp has just been a baby step on the pathway to democratic movement on energy. Camping in coal trucks and dropping banners from power station cooling stacks has been a sign that democracy has been ailing – if there were genuine engagement between the governments, private enterprises and “campaign” groups over the future scenarios for energy, then people wouldn’t need to camp outside banks and coal-fired power plants.
As a consumer of mainstream media, all you see is the blockade of a Biofuel refinery, or people gluing themselves to the entrance of the Royal Bank of Scotland, or the occupation of a plant nursery at the site of a proposed runway. If you think “what a ramshackle bunch of unwashed hippies, straining the last of their voices, railing at the State, in a vain attempt to roll back the tide of industry, progress and Thorium reactors”, then you haven’t understood the bigger picture.
People want to be engaged in the decisions made about energy in this country – properly engaged. People want to use their knowledge to influence decisions. If the only means they have of expressing their democratic will and their opposition to hydraulic fracturing is to D-lock themselves to Shale Gas drilling equipment, then perhaps they might just do that. This might happen in Poland too. The alternative would be a proper discussion between the people groups and the governments. Where’s the European Union environmental legislature while all of this is happening ? Shale Gas could destroy Poland.
Energy Collectives – Expressing Collective Democratic Will
Groups like Fair Pensions are building momentum between people groups and investing institutions – raising the flag for clean energy. This isn’t about fighting – let’s drop the battlefield language, including that word “campaign”, which is so often used in a derogatory, dismissive, belittling way. This is about getting people working together on a new, sustainable future, and it requires all the righteous anger rising up to be channelled into a positive, productive movement, fully expressing the will of the people.
Consultations and placard-waving demonstration protests are not the way forward – we need energy change, and that’s going to require a whole lot more democratic energy. People don’t want dirty energy, and they don’t want nuclear power. Dirty energy should be asked to leave the building, nicely, politely. Firm but fair.
Group Thinking – Democratic Intelligence
Investment in renewable and sustainable energy is creating long-lasting assets for the UK and other countries. We don’t need and we don’t want dirty, radioactive energy any more. A thousand cheers for German democracy !
Mark Lynas may call himself a “green”, and be a clean-shaven, respectable, politely-spoken Oxford academic type but he appears to be mutating into something very unappealing indeed. He’s written some good books on climate change – every schoolroom and university module should have one – but on energy, he is deep in the political woods, without even a wind-up flashlight.
His latest stunt is to join in with accusations from Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit that the IPCC’s report on Renewable Energy has been partly crafted by people without appropriate independence or expertise. Here, from Andrew Revkin :-
“The IPCC must urgently review its policies for hiring lead authors – and I would have thought that not only should biased ‘grey literature’ be rejected, but campaigners from NGOs should not be allowed to join the lead author group and thereby review their own work.”
And who is this nefarious untalented Non-Governmental Organisation ? Greenpeace, it appears, according to Mark Lynas, is not capable of writing about the future of energy (or even the current situation).
Daniel Kammen has weighed in and The Revkin has updated his post :-
“There is no Himalaya-gate here at all. While there are some issues with individual chapters, there is no ‘Greenpeace Scenario.’ The 77% carbon free by 2050 is actually more conservative than some cases. The European Climate Foundation, for example has a 100% carbon neutral scenario and Price Waterhouse has a very low carbon one for North Africa. Further, while the IPCC works from published cases, the scenarios are evaluated and assessed by a team.”
There have been a number of reports written in the last year that back the viability of Renewable Energy technologies in replacing the world’s fossil fuel and nuclear energy systems. Not all of them were crafted by Greenpeace researchers. In fact, virtually none of them. Nuclear…yes…maybe it’s that little word “nuclear” that’s the root cause of Mark Lynas’ problem with Greenpeace.
In the Guardian, he is quoted as saying :-
“Many ‘green’ campaigns, like those against nuclear power and GM crops, are not actually scientifically defensible…”
And that’s where you are so wrong, Mark Lynas with the book coming out soon that you seem so desperate to publicise by saying things you know people will find annoying. Nuclear power is a TECHNOLOGY, not a SCIENCE. This is the same basic category error made by Dick Taverne and a number of other public commentators who don’t appear to have an engineering background.
TECHNOLOGY is where people decide that their designs to make something look like they’ll work, build them and don’t foresee flaws with them. SCIENCE is where people study the technology that they’ve built and research the flaws that appear and report on them. Science is what has shown the limitations with the original boasts about genetically modified crops. It turns out that GMOs are a ruse to sell chemicals. And on nuclear fission – the science is in and on the front of your daily newspaper : nuclear power plants pose a number of risks. The advice of the reputable scientists and engineers – old fission nuclear power plants should be withdrawn.
But returning to Renewable Energy, a number of organisations now believe that the demise of fossil fuels needn’t stop humanity from accessing abundant energy. Here is just a very short compilation :-
The Two Marks : Mark A. Delucchi and Mark Z. Jacobson :-
CAT Zero Carbon Britain 2030 :-
Roadmap 2050 :-
European Renewable Energy Council R[e]volution :-
But oh, no, we can’t quote the last one because Greenpeace researchers were involved, and Mark Lynas wouldn’t approve of that. Mark Lynas appears to be living in a world where Greenpeace people can’t have engineering research skills because they have ideals, working for a world that uses safe, clean energy.
The IPCC report on Renewable Energy is here :-
Much as I respect turtles, I have to say it – Mark Lynas, you’re a turtle – slow-moving and easy to catch out and turn into soup. You should know by now not to get sucked in by spurious non-arguments from Steve McIntyre. The “cleantech” industry that’s ramping up to provide the world with green energy is worth billions, soon to be trillions of dollars worldwide, and this fact appears to have completely passed you by. The only future for energy is sustainable, renewable, non-nuclear, clean, quiet and safe. There is no other viable, liveable, option.
[ UPDATE : In the Independent newspaper, Mark Lynas is quoted as remarking “Campaigners should not be employed as lead authors in IPCC reports”. So, Mark, it’s really fine for employees of the major oil, gas and mining companies to take a leading role on major IPCC reports; but it’s not fine, according to you, that somebody working for much less money and much higher principles than mere corporate profit should contribute ? Denigrating somebody for being a “campaigner” is a stereotypical insult. Everybody’s got an agenda, campaigners included. What’s your agenda, Mark ? Selling your new book ? Don’t be dismissive about Greenpeace researchers. They may have ideals, but they’re not naive – they also have brains – and with their declared position on getting at the truth they can be trusted to be direct, decent and honest. Where’s your ethical compass, Mark ? ]
Viva Italia !